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Home > Focus > Responsible Innovation and Participatory Democracy. Daniel P. Mulhollan in FGB

Responsible Innovation and Participatory Democracy. Daniel P. Mulhollan in FGB

by Redazione FGB [1], 28 November 2008

Milan, Giannino Bassetti Foundation
3rd December 2008 - 15.30

Daniel Mulhollan, Director of the Congressional Research Service [2] at the Library of the US Congress, will be the guest of the Giannino Bassetti Foundation in Milan on 3rd December 2008, within the scientific framework of the research project I forum consultivi come strumento di fiducia, promoted by IRER [3] - the Regional Research Institute of Lombardy.
Dr. Mulhollan will converse with Piero Bassetti, President of the Giannino Bassetti Foundation, and Robi Ronza, delegate of the President of the Lombardy Region for International Relations, on responsible innovation and participatory democracy. The seminar, followed by a round table discussion, will take place at the Foundation's premises in via Barozzi 4, Milan [4]. This is an invitation-only event.

Purpose statement
Thomas Jefferson stated that "there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have on occasion to refer." The Library of Congress reflects that guiding principle as it continues to make all possible knowledge resources available and useful to the members of Congress in order to sustain their well-informed exercise of power, as legislators. The Congress set up the Congressional Research Service and placed it within the Library of Congress with "complete research independence" and "maximum practicable administrative independence" to serve as its research arm in legislative decision-making. An identification of the major barriers in sustaining a fully informed legislator and how to overcome them is, today, a profound challenge to representative democracy in the increasingly complex context of modern society. What does it mean to be an expert consultant to a decision-maker in the American context? Does the consequent reliance on expertise in addressing multi-faceted policy problems constitute an inevitable challenge to representative democracy? And, if so, how can that challenge be addressed? In addition, attention needs to be given to the critical role of the deliberative process, manifested so markedly and splendidly in the representative bodies of democracies. What can parliamentary institutions do to provide consistently authoritative, timely, objective and accurate support for that deliberative process?

The Bassetti Foundation will host a conversation between Daniel Mulhollan, Director of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of the US Congress, and Robi Ronza, delegate of the President of the Region Lombardy for International Relations, to explore the relevance of this issue in a context in which representative democracy is challenged by the complexity of technoscientific innovation. The Region of Lombardy is the second high-tech region in Europe (Eurostat, Science and Technology, Statistics in Focus, 102/2007). This event follows in a path of projects of the Bassetti Foundation, aimed at reflecting on the relationship between knowledge and power, with a view to developing responsible forms of innovation in representative democracy.

Responsibility and democracy at the Bassetti Foundation
The speed and complexity of techno-scientific innovation poses new questions for politicians in a historical moment when decisions concerning public property and citizens' life cannot just be taken by élites of decision makers in agreement with scientists or experts. During recent years, together with the traditional tools of representative democracy, new participative procedures have been adopted, in order to aid or complement democratic processes of evaluation and decision-making concerning techno-scientific innovations.
The Bassetti Foundation for responsible innovation is fostering a common ground of action and thought with reference to the perception of scientific innovation in the public domain and explorative innovation in democracy.

Between July 2003 and September 2004 the Bassetti Foundation, with the collaboration of Observa [5] and IRER, conducted an institutional experiment in the form of dialogue between experts, citizens and stakeholders. The consensus forum project on the open field experimentation of GM crops was promoted by the Region Lombardy. The objective for the very first time in Italy was to test new methods of citizen participation in policy processes regarding complex, techno-scientific projects.

The Foundation was present at the European Union public forum held at Brussels from 9th to 11th March 2005 [6], aimed, five years after the Lisbon agenda [7], at assessing the results and objectives of promoting better links between the scientific community and the public, bettering scientific communication and the public governance of research and innovation. The Bassetti Foundation showcased the results of the project "Public Participation and Governance of Innovation", which it led in partnership with the Region Lombardy and IRER.

A special issue of the Regional Research Institute of Lombardy - IRER Notebooks (Quaderni dell'IRER - Istituto Regionale di Ricerca della Lombardia) presented the proceedings of the June 2006 conference on "Technical and scientific innovation, democratic innovation". The opening paper, by Piero Bassetti, entitled "Governance and technical and scientific innovation", raises a number of questions: who creates innovation in the modern world? Are those who create innovation aware of their own responsibility? How might we promote responsible innovation?"

The debate on responsibility in innovation and innovation in democracy, which the Giannino Bassetti Foundation has long been promoting, has generated significant political developments in the Lombardy Region: deliberative democracy is currently at the centre of political interest. Giuseppe Adamoli, chair of the Ad Hoc Statute Committee, made an explicit reference to responsibility in innovation during the Lombardy Regional Council session held on 3 July 2007, engaged in drafting its new statute, which was passed in the Spring of 2008. Giuseppe Adamoli referred to the challenge awaiting the Region during the constituent phase of the new statute: "There is another challenge too that our Region has to take up. Piero Bassetti, the first governor of the Region of Lombardy, highlighted it [...]. Bassetti spoke in terms of 'responsibility in innovation,' voicing the hope that Lombardy would be the first of the Italian regions to commit itself to regulating the issue in its statute."

Following the approval of the new Statute of Lombardy, including an article (n. 10) specifically devoted to giving an open mandate to the legislator, so that in the case of "difficult decision" new procedures of consultation and decision-making can be adopted in order to widen the basis of discussion and participation in the decision-making process, the Regional Institute for Research (IRER) fostered a seminar and research project on participatory democracy and consultation forums, at which the Bassetti Foundation actively participated.

The Bassetti Foundation also sponsored the publication in Italian of the report "Taking European Knowledge Society seriously" and organized a presentation seminar at its Milan headquarters in Via Barozzi on 15th February 2008. The report was produced by a working group of experts with a mandate from the European Commission to study three particular aspects of European science and its governance: 1) How can one respond to European society's widely held mistrust in science? 2) How can one promote democracy and the involvement of civil society? 3) To identify urgent policy challenges regarding climate change and sustainable development. The seminar proposed an analysis of these problems from the point of view of the widespread perception of the need to characterize a "knowledge society" in terms of responsible innovation. Among the guests were Brian Wynne, Chairperson of the working group that produced the report and Prof. Tallacchini, lawyer, member of this working group and translator of the report.

A recent volume sponsored by the Bassetti Foundation deals with the main issues concerning the relation between innovation and governance considering the limits and potentialities of these new approaches: Technoscientific Innovation. Responsibility and New Models of Democracy in Science and Society Relationship Edited by Giuseppe Pellegrini with an Introduction by Piero Bassetti, Rubbettino, October 2008.

Daniel P. Mulhollan, Director of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress
Mr. Mulhollan has been Director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) since January 24, 1994. CRS is the legislative branch agency providing public policy research and analysis to Members and committees of Congress to support Congress' legislative and oversight functions.

In the 1970's, Mr. Mulhollan coordinated CRS' significant efforts for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities in its investigation of Watergate and served as a liaison for the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment investigation. His work for the Judiciary Committee was singled out by Chairman Rodino as "a remarkable performance." He also served as CRS liaison with the House Judiciary and Senate Rules and Administration Committees in their consideration of the nomination of Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller to be Vice President.

During the 1980's, he served as Assistant Chief and in 1991 became Chief of the Government Division. In these positions, Mr. Mulhollan had research management responsibilities for all the policy issues of the Division: Congress, including its organization and processes; executive branch organization and operations; the Federal budget process; intergovernmental relations, survey research and public opinion polls; civil rights and minorities; and elections, lobbying, political parties and processes, the territories, and U.S. history. Between 1992 and 1994, Mr. Mulhollan served as Acting Deputy Librarian of Congress.

Since becoming Director, Mr. Mulhollan has had the responsibility for policy, planning, and operations for the Congressional Research Service, overseeing a $100 million budget and 700 professional staff including experts in political, social, economic, and physical sciences. During his tenure he led the first major agency-wide reorganization in 30 years; led the first federally-funded workforce succession effort to cope with the potential loss of 50% of professional staff due to retirement; led the first multi-million dollar information technology initiative to establish an agency-wide integrated, secure computing environment to support collaborative research and management decisions; and oversaw the design of the first research management framework used by CRS to assess agency and executive performance. He also oversaw the creation of a new program establishing research partnerships with major universities to enhance the agency's research capacity at minimum cost; led research to support congressional deliberation on major issues such as post 9/11 policies, hurricane disasters, and the creation and implementation of the Department of Homeland Security. He also led the development of a CRS website exclusively for Congress offering analytic and information products and services in an interactive environment.

Mr. Mulhollan has published in a number of scholarly journals on the organization and processes of Congress, including Legislative Studies Quarterly, Western Political Quarterly and Congress and the Presidency and in a number of books including Interest Group Politics edited by Allan J. Cigler and Burdett A. Loomis, and Readings in American Government edited by Randall B. Ripley and Elliot Slotnick.

He is a member of the American Political Science Association and served on the Association's Centennial Campaign Executive Committee. He serves on the Visitors Board of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Mulhollan, a recipient of the General Electric College Bowl scholarship, graduated with honours in 1966 from the College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; he received a fellowship and passed his Ph.D. comprehensives at Georgetown University in 1969.

The Congressional Research Service
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) serves as shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. CRS experts assist at every stage of the legislative process -- from the early considerations that precede bill drafting, through committee hearings and floor debate, to the oversight of enacted laws and various agency activities.

CRS's analytic capabilities integrate multiple disciplines and research methodologies. In a fast-paced, ever-changing environment, CRS provides Congress with the vital, analytical support it needs to address the most complex public policy issues facing the nation. Its work incorporates program and legislative expertise, The quantitative methodologies, and legal and economic analysis.

CRS approaches complex topics from a variety of perspectives and examines all sides of an issue. Staff members analyze current policies and present the impact of proposed policy alternatives, even if it means bringing to light facts that may be contrary to established assumptions.

CRS services come in many forms:

  • tailored confidential memoranda, briefings and consultations
  • expert congressional testimony
  • reports on current legislative issues available 24/7 via a Web site
  • the Legislative Information System (LIS)
  • seminars and workshops, including the twice yearly Federal Law Update
  • training for congressional staff in legislative and budget procedures
  • a premier work in constitutional law, entitled the Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation

With public policy issues growing more complex and political debate turning more contentious, the need for insightful and comprehensive analysis of the issues has become vital. Congress relies on CRS to marshal interdisciplinary resources, encourage critical thinking and create innovative frameworks to help legislators form sound policies and reach decisions on a host of difficult issues. These decisions will guide and shape the nation today and for generations to come.

(photo from Annual Report Fiscal Year 2007)

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Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/
  3. 3] http://www.irer.it/
  4. 4] http://maps.google.it/maps?f=q&hl=it&q=via%2Bmichele%2Bbarozzi%2B4%2Bmilano&sll=41.895888,12.489052&sspn=23.996588,32.167969&ie=UTF8&z=17&ll=45.469958,9.202724&spn=0.00553,0.011373&om=1
  5. 5] http://www.observa.it/
  6. 6] http://ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2005/forum2005/index_en.htm
  7. 7] http://ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2005/forum2005/docs/background_layout_en.pdf
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Daniel P. Mulhollan
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